November 03, 2006

Surfacing


Monday's Burlesque Poetry Hour with Maureen Thorson, PF Potvin, and Gianmarc Manzione was one of the most fun readings I have been to in a while. (I'd say that even if I hadn't won the bidding on Maureen's handmade Crown of the Spider Queen, I swear.) The types of poetry were different, but the caliber was high across the board. Maureen's latest (just a wee bit satirical) work is on the Spider Army, a pseudohistorical account of the appropriation of spiders (their service, their silk, their engineering principles) by the American military. Potvin writes brief but volatile prose poems that tweak the tropes and concerns of the middle-class. Manzione's lyrics have a heightened sense of place and form, a conscious elegance of word choice. Each engaged in his or her own way. To the right is a new No Tell book, which Reb gave me that night. All I owe her is my firstborn--ain't that a steal? I'm posting it here because Reb has a knack for designing covers that play to what Lulu does best. The image is crisp and clever.

I got a bed this week. Dissembled the futon of five years with my bare hands, and I'm not sorry to see it go. If this sounds mildly irrelevant, realize that part of my excitement stems from the fact that this new bed can, for hours at a time, act as a huge desk...which, being a city dweller, I don't otherwise have room for. Being at Millay and having not one but two folding tables at my disposal made me realize how mugh I missed being able to lay things out and move them around. Poets are spatial creatures as well as verbal ones, after all.

People have been all atwitter in response to Bill Logan's journal entries at the Poetry Foundation this week. They've been satisfying to read (even if I am of the blogger ilk which he mocks). Like it or not, he is out there serving as a real critic--saying what he likes, what he doesn't like, and why, and pulling no punches about it. Occasionally his criticisms verge on the ad hominem (I recall a particularly crass attack on Kim Addonoizo). Bah. Those kinds of cheap rhetorical moves are a waste of his time and ours. But otherwise, if people want to defuse Bill Logan's power I would suggest they do so by raising the bar on other poetry reviews which, by and large, seems to be awfully afraid of being critical. If we want others to take us seriously, then we have to be unafraid of less-than-laudatory observations. If there were more push-and-pull in the overall field of reviews, Logan wouldn't get so much attention. Poetry is such an undernourished business that unless someone is Billy Collins or Robert Pinsky, even the slightest critical prodding can feel like kicking a dog when he's down. Suck it up, says the Bill Logans of the world, and I'm not sure I disagree.

2 comments:

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Great point about "raising the bar on other poetry reviews which, by and large, seems to be awfully afraid of being critical." I agree.

Hebdomeros said...

Excellent point. It may not be as rampant in the world of fiction, but it happens there as well. A lot of review sources refuse to print negative reviews, for fear of offending not just the author but the publisher (ie potential advertiser). The reviews that are negative are usually more snarky than actually critical. It's a shame, because I find well thought out criticism, either negative or positive, interesting and helpful to read. But then, I have yet to be reviewed anywhere save amazon readers comments.